In Food + Drink

Sparkling, Suits And Sky-High Views: Inside Melbourne’s Only Tailor-Slash-Bar

When most people think of a tailor that serves alcohol, they usually imagine a hole-in-the-wall type affair with a bottle of whisky or two looking slightly out of place on the shelf. Few picture uninterrupted panoramic views of Melbourne with drinks that wrap around your palette like a well-fitted jacket. Yet Melbourne’s latest tailor and cocktail den offers just that.

Long before the 12-year-old tailor from Brisbane opened its adjoining bar, a plan for a Melbourne edition had been on the cards. But it wasn’t until a small mishap and building renovations got in the way of a new lease last year that the guys from up north really began to kick things off. And what a kick-off it was.

Located on the 46th floor of Shadow Play by Peppers, The Cloakroom Bar Melbourne brings a little something different to Southbank. It swung its doors wide open late in December and even reigned in the new year with a ring of a different sort — one that was very Japanese.

The Cloakroom Bar Melbourne

How a brand-new Melbourne tailor and speakeasy came to host a Ginza-themed New Year’s party has a lot to do with the thread that its sewn. You see, when The Cloakroom first opened in 2007, all of its garments had come out of Hong Kong. But a couple of years ago, production moved to Tokyo, which co-owner and founder of Sartorial Journal Aidan Chappell says has lifted the business. In comparison, he says, “it’s like apples and oranges”.

The lift was such a game-changer they’ve decided to dedicate much of the bar’s styling to it: an ode to Japanese craftsmanship and to “distil the essence of tailoring”.

Inside, you’ll find Japanese influence goes well beyond the fabric. The new space, the fourth branch from The Cloakroom team, pays homage to elements of country: Picture hints of Japanese design and furnishings met with animation.

Upon entry, the first thing you’ll find is a visual installation in collaboration with New York-based Australian artist Sophia Hanover set between two doors; the left enters its daytime tailor, the right enters its evening cocktail bar. Inside these are divided by a large glass cabinet, offering a glimpse into both areas.

In a way it’s kind of futuristic, yet classic. “It’s about those subconscious parallels between art and creating a mood,” Chappell says. “Brass finishes, custom furniture and cabinetry, classic tailoring, fully canvassed and traditional,” he says describing its finer detail.

Japanese influence, he admits, is more evident in the bar, which is made out of an ebonised, darkened wood with hand-chiselled benchtops—a technique, he tells us, is actually Japanese. “It speaks a lot who we are as a brand.”

Unlike Cloakroom Bar Brisbane or Montreal where there wasn’t a menu in sight, the Melbourne bar does have its own 10-drink menu. While bespoke cocktails are still the focus, Chappell says when it comes to running a bar without a menu, “what we found here [in Brisbane] was that people weren’t always used to it”.

On that list, you’ll find the likes of the Day 1, a cocktail inspired by the flavours of a traditional Japanese breakfast. Sake, Haku vodka and miso-infused pickled cherry tomato makes for an oddly satisfying sweet and salty number. This was actually a competition entry drink for bar manager Tony Huang, former manager of 55th-floor Rialto Towers cocktail lounge The Lui Bar.

Day 1 is joined by another signature known as The Cloakroom Iced Tea. Originally developed for a Dior event, this is summertime cocktail which pairs Amontillado sherry with jasmine tea, amaro, Plantation original dark rum, maraschino cherry and mint.

“As cliché as it sounds,” Chappell says, “bespoke cocktails start with a conversation”. Much like the tailoring, it begins with the style you’re after followed by the spirits, flavours and texture you’d like.

Although inside some would call it the ultimate man den – a tailor shop and cocktail bar with panoramic views of the city – if you chat to the owners, you’ll soon learn while it’s the male customers who might enjoy the tailoring, it’s the female customers who know how to enjoy a drink. That was the main takeaway from Brisbane, Chappell says.

Originally designed as bespoke tailor service, the bar side of the business only came about when a tenancy popped up next door to Maison Cloakroom – The Cloakroom’s second branch, whose name requires an element of French by law – in 2014. It did so well Montreal welcomed a second bar just some weeks before the Melbourne venture by the name of Still Life.

On the theme as a whole, Chappell says it was about “changing retail landscape”. People want more than a store nowadays: “An additional layer, an experience, the idea behind it,” he says.

For now, tailoring is still available in Brisbane, however, Melbourne upholds the brand’s image and, of course, “distils the essence of tailoring”.

(All images: The Cloakroom Bar Melbourne / supplied)

Published 31 January, 2020